Abuja’s largest botanical garden blooms into biz
Botanical gardens may not be the go-to destination for relaxation or even tourism, but the opposite is the case in this garden located in a serene environment in Abuja.
Sarius Palmetum Botanical Garden is located in a residential area in Maitama. But the place is more than a botanical garden. Inside, a long gravelled driveway leads one past a mini waterfall to the single storey office building where the CEO, Mr. Adnan Adeosun confirms a visitor’s suspicion.
Aside being a botanical garden, there’s a grand plan to turn it into a resort. Soon, there will be accommodation for people who intend to stay overnight and have a full experience. Apparently, the founder, Adeosun’s mother, Mrs. Murtala Muhammed, who was wife to former Head of State, late General Murtala Muhammed, acquired the strategically located 21 hectare land mass years ago with a plan.
Mrs. Muhammed’s love of plants came from her travels to countries such as Hawaii, Singapore, and Mauritius, where she collected many of the species found in the garden. “There are now over 1,000 different species of plants, which include about 450 species of palms, in addition to those popular in Nigeria, such as the oil and coconut palm and others like Bismarckia, golden and royal palm,” the CEO said, adding that his mother has created other such places like the Murtala Muhammed Memorial Botanical Garden in Lagos and was also part of the team that did the primary landscape planning for Obudu Cattle Ranch.
Sarius Palmetum Management Company was formed in 2014 by Adeosun with the primary aim of harnessing and developing the full potentials of Sarius Palmetum Botanical Garden through effective management. “The company sees the opportunities in the eco-tourism industry and aims to propose various models to manage and develop more recreational green areas within Nigeria, both privately and on a PPP basis with the federal government,” Adeosun explained.
They had taken care to locate the garden in a quiet area and at the same time make it accessible to people in the capital city who crave for time-out once in a while. The site’s boundaries include the Ibrahim Babangida Way to the north, high-end residential houses overlooking the garden towards the east and primarily, a natural forest area towards the south and west.
Sarius Palmetum also boasts of a very interesting terrain which includes green hills on its periphery, several rock formations and a river that runs through the entire length of the garden.
Adeosun who pointed out that there’s an aspect of horticulture to their activities, which includes planting trees to halt desertification in the north, said there is neglect of planting in the country, except of those that yield crops. He revealed that in partnership with Aurecon South Africa, they carried out a detailed and comprehensive site assessment exercise and master plan to create awareness and visibility for horticulture in Nigeria and generate income for the upkeep and enhancement of the garden.
The garden’s Operations Manager, Roselyn Iheasi revealed that there are over 200 monkeys in the area. “But they only roam at dawn and in the evenings when there’s little human activity and then go back to the woods,” she said, adding that the fruits in the trees are mostly left for them.
Already, the garden employs about fifty people, including labourers who trim the grasses, those who take care of the nursery, aside the security and management staff.
Through events, consultancy services, selling of plants and more, the botanical garden generates its income. Also, stages for events are located in various points in the garden which could take hundreds of people.
Iheasi explained that the fee to have the place for an event goes as high as N250, 000 and N500, 000 for a whole day, depending on the space utilised. On a weekly basis, the environment is fumigated and totally rid of snakes. “We charge a gate fee of N1000 per adult and N500 for children below the age of fourteen,” she added.
Abuja is known for its numerous amusement and relaxation spots, yet this botanical garden appears to offer a unique experience. A scene for a Nollywood movie has already been shot on its terrain and an event called ‘Tamerri Festival’ which writers, poets, artists and filmmakers are expected to attend will take place there soon.